On the surface it seems like a disturbing trend. Over the last few years all across Connecticut, groups of people have been locked inside oddly decorated rooms and have had to work together to solve puzzles and mind games in order to escape.

But people have not been forced into these rooms. They’ve paid for the increasingly popular privilege. They’re called escape, or adventure, rooms. Today, regardless of where in Connecticut you call home, there is likely an escape room within a relatively short drive.

The practice originated in Asia, and spread to Western Europe and the West Coast before sprouting up across the country. Participants have 60 minutes to solve missions which often have a spy or Indiana Jones-esque theme. The rooms themselves offer the clues guests need to complete the mission, and the practice has been likened to playing a real-life, puzzle-based video game. Sometimes there are small prizes offered for completing the mission within 60 minutes. But more often than not, you’re playing for bragging rights and personal satisfaction.

There is some debate over the terms “escape rooms” and “adventure rooms,” as some argue the former can be off-putting and intimidating. Regardless of what you call them, they offer family-friendly entertainment and a chance to flex your mental muscles. Below we look at many of the businesses in the state offering this experience.

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Adventure Rooms in Middletown

Adventure Rooms

Middletown

One of Connecticut’s original adventure/escape room businesses, Adventure Rooms has been open since 2014. It features two versions of an escape room popularized in Switzerland, as well as additional rooms and adventures for repeat customers. Reservations must be made in advance, and guests sign up as a team and are not paired with strangers. As promotional information for the venue boasts, Adventures Rooms in Middletown features “team-oriented private event spaces offering heart racing, down-to-the-wire, ‘Wow!’ inducing experiences.” 860-358-9130, myadventurerooms.com

Pursue The Clues

Torrington

There’s an emphasis on fun and adventure at this Torrington establishment that will soon feature a total of six different adventures on-site, in addition to various pop-up games the business brings to special events, such as weddings and fundraisers. “Each of our games is built in-house, and each centers around a story giving the players a unique mission that must be accomplished in order to win,” owner Vince Laliberte says. “We don’t do escape themes, as in we don’t lock players in a room and tell them they need to find clues to get out. We give them an hour to complete a mission.” 860-618-5811, pursuetheclues.com

Escape New Haven

New Haven

“You and your team are trapped; you have 60 minutes to escape a room by solving a series of puzzles that will challenge your mind and confound your senses,” reads the description at this Elm City escape room. “Explore, adapt, work together, think creatively — and you just might succeed.” There are three different rooms guests can choose from, and they can be booked along with other guests, or groups of eight or more can opt for a private booking. 860-576-9997, escapenewhaven.com

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Complexity, A Puzzling Adventure

Farmington

“Complexity puzzle rooms are family friendly, and are great for a group of friends and co-workers,” says owner Michelle Weathers. “Our rooms set the theme, and focus is on the puzzles and team communication. We do private bookings, so players are not in with people they don’t know.” As of this writing, three rooms were available, with a new room coming soon. Weathers adds, in addition to the Farmington space, “We’ve developed a puzzle activity for large corporate teams wanting to emphasize team-building, that we take to off-site locations.” 860-409-7009, complexityrooms.com

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Ultimate Escape, Norwich

The Ultimate Escape

Norwich

At this escape room, all groups are private, so there’s no pairing with strangers. “The reason for that is to keep the escape room as a team-building, family-bonding experience,” says owner Chris Thompson. The website describes the two game rooms currently available as “a hybrid of a scavenger hunt and a puzzle game,” and proclaims, “the trial is timed and teamwork is essential. Success, failure, bonding are inevitable — escape is not!” 860-503-8910, theultimateescape.net

Team vs. Time

Berlin

Billed as the “room escape for the room-escape enthusiasts,” the adventure room boasts an experience that includes “live action, full sound and set design” and a “one-of-a-kind, immersive escape-game experience.” Four different adventures are featured. Guests will not be paired with strangers. The minimum number for a team is two people, while the maximum

is five to eight people. 860-259-6167, teamvstime.com

Mystified

Mystic

Shelly Wilson says this escape room has a unique approach. “Mystified sets itself apart by creating a steampunk ambiance and offering character game attendance — in Victorian steampunk costumes, no less! We pride ourselves on providing the personal touch to our games, offering clues in person, not by computer monitors, etc. We offer three game rooms, each targeting different ability levels,” she says. Mystified’s newest game room will open in mid-April and will be fully wheelchair accessible. 860-245-5136, mystifiedct.com

Escape 101

Danbury

“An adventure will unfold as you watch the seconds tick by,” boasts this Danbury Escape Room. “Your mission is simple: escape the room as quickly as possible. Our game rooms are thoughtfully designed to offer an immersive experience with unexpected twists.” Currently, Escape 101 has four rooms featuring 112 locks and 324 puzzles, but changes to the rooms are planned for the future. 203-616-5777, esc101.com

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Trap’t Escape Room Adventures

Stamford

If being “trapped” in a room and racing against the clock to find clues and solve increasingly difficult puzzles sounds kind of, well, stressful, this might be the escape room for you. The emphasis here is more on the fun than the challenge of the experience. “We strive to have all of our games be logical, and stress team success over creating really hard-to-complete rooms,” says Stuart Bogaty, CEO of Trap’t. “Most escape rooms advertise, and are very proud of, low escape rates. We are very proud to give unlimited hints to get the majority of people to complete our games.” 203-569-0011, traptct.com

Game of Rooms

Danbury

The rooms at Game of Rooms — one of Danbury’s two adventure-room venues — change every few months and often have a horror theme. In early March, the three room options were “Carnivale” with a haunted-carnival theme, “Coven” with a haunted-cabin theme, and “Outbreak” with a science theme. 475-323-8108, gameofroomsct.com

Panic Room

Norwalk

The plot of each adventure room is a point of pride at Panic Room in Norwalk. “Our rooms combine elements of team building, brain busting and psychological training, blended with an incredible plot that will leave you fully immersed in the experience,” states its website. “Unlike traditional room-escape games, our participants have a mission objective in each storyline where they will be constantly challenged by sophisticated puzzles and devilishly clever clues along the way.” 203-987-2647, panicroomct.com

Puzzle Theory

South Windsor

Puzzle Theory is billed as a“Connecticut escape room that offers an interactive experience, one where you and your group are thrust into a thematic and sometimes-absurd story for 60 minutes.” Three rooms are featured, but the plots of the rooms are linked, and those who wish to play each room are advised to play in a certain order, an unusual feature that’s great for serious adventure-room enthusiasts. 860-925-6800, puzzletheory.co

The senior writer at Connecticut Magazine, Erik is the co-author of Penguin Random House’s “The Good Vices” and author of “Buzzed” and “Gillette Castle.” He is also an adjunct professor at WCSU’s MFA Program and Quinnipiac University